Following a fateful night and a brief taste of death that was nothing more than a temporary affair, our hero Dr. Johnathan Reid wakes in a pit of corpses with newfound powers and a new life to begin as an immortal. Before we get into this Vampyr review, here’s a little info about the game’s setting. Vampyr is a gothic RPG and a beautifully narrated account of branching storylines. It features tough choices and a characters earnest accord of coming to terms with who (or what) he is.
The deep illustration of both storytelling and character development were enough to make me look past the bland combat system and awkward user interphase. And I’m glad I did. After an emotional start, I was introduced to a story that keeps pace with mysteries, twists, and choice. Leaving you with answers, just out of reach until those perfect moments.
A strange illness – or something more?
It’s the 1900’s and a viral epidemic – the Spanish flu; has been sweeping the nation. Having unwillingly been saved (or cursed?) from illness, ageing, and mortality itself your struggle begins as you try to come to terms with being a creature of legend. Personal issues will have to wait, however, as London is on the brink of collapse. The flu has ravaged the city separating districts and causing chaos. The story in Vampyr takes you behind the scenes into the shadows of a fantasy world filled with werewolves, vampires, and conspiracies. Serving as a murder mystery is it up to you to unravel the secrets of the strange plague sweeping London. The clues you find each piece together a puzzle that’s slowly unraveling. The story is paced neatly enough, like any great detective mystery, to give you answers but just enough to leave you guessing.
A Story and Cast to dine on
Vampyr is supported by a character cast that is nothing short of fantastic. Each of the main characters has a turn in the spotlight and is built up steadily through quests and conversation alike. They all have a part to play in shaping the story some small, some significant but all changing London for better or for worse. This is where Vampyr truly shines. Spending time with these characters will show you how they struggle in dealing with the epidemic.
The game has a knack for playing on your emotions. It forces you into tense situations with no clear right answer. You will find yourself making decisions that question your morality as a doctor and sense of justice as a man. A process that often had me staring at my screen, contemplating just what my own values of good and evil were. Adding to the immersion is the brilliant performance by Anthony Howell who voices Dr. Reid. Presenting a detailed and descriptive insight into your character’s mentality as he wrestles with the choices he’s made and his existence itself.
Taking on the role of the vampire or the doctor
One of Vampyr’s most interesting aspects is its take on game difficulty – there is no setting for easy medium or hard. Instead, as blood has now become your single source of nourishment Vampyr lets you charm and consume in-game NPCs for massive EXP bonuses. The more you consume the more powerful you get, the easier the game becomes. You can go through the entirety of the story without feeding at all, too. Playing as a character who has sworn to do no harm the choice is left completely up to you. But choose the high road of morality to go without feeding and you will be facing some really tough fights ahead of you.
Be warned though! Feeding on the weak, while giving you strength, takes its toll on the district’s health status. Each district in London comes attached with a fluctuating health level. This meter represents the healthiness of citizens living inside the area. The lower the meter, the deeper into chaos a district descends. As a doctor – preventing this is done by analyzing each citizen and curing their ailments to keep the district healthy. Feeding on the citizens, however, will drop the health status down a couple notches so choose your victims wisely. The deeper your districts fall into chaos the more enemies come out to play.
The combat, though
Vampyr’s easy to grasp yet extremely simple combat system is perhaps the games only downside. It takes some time to get used to the combat system and style of gameplay but once you do you’ll be dominating your enemies with ease. You have the standard health and stamina bars, with a designated “blood gauge” that lets you use specific vampiric powers. Unlocking new vampire skills and obtaining new upgradable weapons keeps combat encounters interesting. Most enemies, however, force you to use the same repetitive mechanics over and over again. Dodge, wait for an opening then get in there and mash the attack button.
Thankfully the enemy designs and combat encounters kind of fix this but what was supposed to be epic multi species fights are often reduced to you whittling away a couple of enemies in the corner while avoiding the others. Combat even with these downsides is still fun, and getting good at it takes skill. The overall simplicity however does diminishes its lifeline of excitement. That being said there are some well-choreographed and exciting boss battles that fuel the action later on in the game.
Vampyr’s detailed lore and setting let you step foot into a dark gothic mystery. Its story builds on a character who makes you question your own sense of right and wrong. The hero you choose to be is all based on your actions. The urge to feed and get stronger is always weighed against your characters natural will to do no harm. To uncover the secrets and liberate London of its epidemic or replace the illness with something worse – the choice is yours.
Related: Get Vampyr with Steam Wallet!
I give Vampyr a score of 8/10. Its fantastically voiced cast and character development coupled with a sensible choice presented me with some of hardest decisions I’ve had to make in a video game in years. The simplistic combat and controls are why it was just shy of a perfect score. These are by no means a reason not to pick this one up. I would highly recommend Vampyr if you’re a fan of story-based RPGs or murder mysteries.
The game starts off a little slow at first. Though it does pick up soon after a few hours in. The multitude of options really makes me want to go back in for a second playthrough just to see what happens in some of the darker choices. My 21 hours in Vampyr were an enjoyable experience of philosophy and morality – and in my opinion well worth its place in my collection.